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Urban Typhoon Workshop & Cultural Typhoon Symposium

Wednesday, June 21, 2006 Posted: 11:20 AM JST

(by Jean Miyake Downey) - Shimokitazawa, an old haunt of mine, only a few minutes from where I lived in Inokashira-Koen, is one of the most alive and creative spaces in Tokyo. Live experimental theater. Coffeehouses and clubs that evoke such powerful ambience that they are their own little cosmos within Shimo-Kitazawa. I loved walking through the streets, especially on summer evenings.

kitazawa (25k image)From June 26 to the 29, the Urban Typhoon Workshop (Participatory Urban Design & the Future of Alternative Communities) is challenging a governmental plan to cut up this evocative urbanscape with yet another road project (some Japanese politicians really need to stretch their minds) that would take down the center of this community of poetic streets lined with small family-owned shops and restaurants, shrines, a church, and musical mecca spots.

We invite creative spirits from Japan and abroad to brainstorm on the present and future of Shimokitazawa, at a time when the government is planning a 26 meter-wide road cutting through its culturally vibrant streets.

The Urban Typhoon workshop is a global experiment in participatory design. It is directly connected to the various subcultures of Shimokitazawa and its grassroots community groups.

The workshop is multicultural, multidisciplinary and multimedia. We invite students, urban planners, architects, designers, artists, sociologists, media artists, political activists, utopists, and other nomadic types to imagine the future of Shimokitazawa.

The objective is to produce alternatives to the government's plan as well as a multimedia testimony to the unique spirit of Shimokitazawa. The workshop itself is a joyous and participatory takeover of the city.

The Urban Typhoon Workshop, is connected with two upcoming events:

1) Ubiquitous Urban Design Symposium, June 28, 2006
University of Tokyo, Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies

The Ubiquitous City Symposium considers the formative power of culture within communities and the role of architects and urban design, particularly focusing on the potential of ubiquitous information technologies for public involvement and participatory planning. Taking an experimental approach, the symposium will be directly connected to the Urban Typhoon workshop. Panelists include Shunya Yoshimi, Shin Mizukoshi, Yehuda Safran, Taro Igarashi, Yolande Daniels, Masami Kobayashi, Carla Leitao, Hiroya Tanaka, Pablo Corvalan, Masashige Motoe, and Kengo Nakajima.

2) Cultural Typhoon Symposium, June 30 – July 2, 2006

Cultural Typhoon is annual inter-university event attended by hundreds of scholars from Japan and the rest of the world. This year Cultural Typhoon takes place in Shimokitazawa and focuses on the theme of urban culture. The outcome of the Urban Typhoon workshop will be presented and discussed on Saturday July 1st at the Symposium.

Jean Miyake Downey is a contributing editor at the Kyoto Journal: Perspectives on Asia (www.kyotojournal.org), an award-winning English-language quarterly published in Kyoto, Japan. She covers multicultural and transnational issues. Drawing on her background as a sociologist and lawyer, she takes an interdisciplinary look at the nexuses between historical and contemporary hybridity and fusion; global cultural trauma and historical healing; the revival and survival of traditional and indigenous cultures; and global human rights movements.

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The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
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